Article | Journal of Personality and Social Psychology | July 1977

Social Roles, Social Control and Biases in Social Perception Processes

by L. D. Ross, T. M. Amabile and J. Steinmetz


To make accurate social judgments, an individual must both recognize and adequately correct for the self-presentation advantages or disadvantages conferred upon actors by their social roles. Two experiments using 120 undergraduates examined social perceptions formed during an encounter in which one participant composed difficult general knowledge questions and another participant attempted to answer those questions. As predicted, perceivers failed to make adequate allowance for the biasing effects of these "questioner" and "answerer" roles in judging the participants' general knowledge. Questioners, allowed to display their personal store of esoteric knowledge in composing questions, were consistently rated superior to their partners, who attempted to answer the questions. This bias was stronger for the answerers and the uninvolved observers than for the questioners. Implications for our understanding of the biased perceptions of the powerful and the powerless in society are noted. More general implications for an understanding of the shortcomings of the "intuitive psychologist" are also discussed.

Keywords: Perception; Prejudice and Bias; Social Psychology; Judgments; Power and Influence; Status and Position; Situation or Environment;


Ross, L. D., T. M. Amabile, and J. Steinmetz. "Social Roles, Social Control and Biases in Social Perception Processes." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 35, no. 7 (July 1977): 485–494.